2014 Pence Gallery Garden Tour, Davis, CA (part 2 of 3)

The second house we visited on the recent Pence Gallery Garden Tour had my favorite garden. Not only that, it was also a house I could easily see myself living in. I love Southwestern architecture, and this house’s Territorial style, typically associated with New Mexico, is right up my alley. It’s rare to see this kind of architecture in Northern California, and this house really stood out, surrounded as it was by faux-Tuscan McMansions.

The entry courtyard is a surprisingly intimate and down-to-earth setting accented with olive trees, grasses, lavenders, and a galvanized stock tank turned into a water feature. With its rustic simplicity, the stock tank is a playful allusion to the cattle-and-horse culture of the American West and injects a welcome sense of coolness in an area that bakes in the California sun.



Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima)


Blue fescue (Festuca glauca)


Evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa), a beautiful but invasive western native, contained here in an island in the paved driveway

To access the backyard, we walked down the driveway along the side of the property. The planting strip along this side of the house is filled with citrus trees, including this limequat, a cross between a Key lime and a kumquat:


The citrus trees you see in the next few photos are calamondin, or Philippine lime. The fruit is very sour but the peel is sweet; calamondin are typically used to flavor drinks as opposed to eaten straight.




Having seen the photos above, I’m sure you can guess why I liked this area so much: Yes, there was a row of agaves, Agave ‘Blue Glow’ to be precise. What a wonderful and unexpected surprise in what I consider to be a no-man’s land when it comes to agaves!



Based on what I’d seen so far, I had high expectations for the backyard. It fully met them, and then some.

The first thing we saw after walking through the gate was the kitchen garden. It consists of three galvanized stock tanks, the same size as the one in the front yard. This is a great spot to grow vegetables, and I was thrilled to see the tanks being put to good use.



The food prep area adjacent to the kitchen garden featured beautiful corrugated metal doors. What I wouldn’t give to have this in my own backyard!

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The main part of the backyard is dominated by three lovely Canary Island date palms (Phoenix canariensis) that were brought here from Santa Barbara. They provide light shade and add a feeling of lushness and luxury. Canary Island date palms were among the earliest plants brought by the Spanish and are still found in the courtyards of many California missions.


The pool is refreshingly small and simple—a lap pool, really, instead of the wildly oversized aquatic monstrosities often found in the above-mentioned McMansions. It is framed on one side by a border of native Berkeley sedge (Carex tumulicola) and beyond by a borrowed landscape of oaks and blue gum located on the farm to the north.


Looking towards the main house (straight ahead) and the garage and guest house (right), you can see that this garden focuses on simplicity and low maintenance. I felt completely at home in this space.



Variegated lemon and old metal chair in front of the master bedroom

Garden design: Randy Thueme of Randy Thueme Design, San Francisco. Here is a better view of the front yard when the plantings were small.



  1. Love the more relaxed simplicity of this one, and clever with the borrowed landscape!

    1. I thought the borrowed landscape was cleverly done. I couldn't tell where this property ended and the neighboring one began.

  2. I like everything about this house and garden. It's truly superb design.

  3. Oh those A. 'Blue Glow'!!! Beautiful, and fun to follow your link and see them when they were tiny. It's a fabulous home and garden. I am curious about your statement "What a wonderful and unexpected surprise in what I consider to be a no-man’s land when it comes to agaves!"...what did you mean? Why is this a no-man's land?

    1. What I meant about no-man's land: Our climate is so perfect for agaves, and yet you drive all over town and see maybe one or two agave here and there, usually Agave americana 'Marginata' or, if you're lucky, Agave parryi. This is the FIRST TIME I've ever seen an Agave 'Blue Glow' in Davis outside of my own garden. It's really sad.

      I blame the local nurseries for this. The agave selection is pathetic. You're lucky if you find a horribly abused specimen in some neglected corner of the nursery. Desert plants are simply not featured. The Bay Area is completely different; drive around Berkeley, San Francisco or Marin County, and you'll see agaves everywhere. But not in the Sacramento Valley.

    2. Ah...I get it. Thank you for explaining. And that's unfortunate.

  4. Really nice garden--any garden with 'Blue Glow' in it is a cut above. Not thrilled with the palms, though. They don't work for me. Out of scale, maybe?

    1. I know what you mean about the scale of the palm trees. But for me, it works; the palms make the backyard small and cozy.

    2. You never really know from photos--there's nothing like being there in the garden! :)


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